Safely Reopening Your Clubhouse Restaurant During COVID-19
Restaurants have been some of the hardest hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and people have had to adjust their habits to deal with their favourite food spots being unavailable. As a golf course, the restaurant is an important piece of the operation, and as regulations begin to ease and dining rooms start to open in limited capacity, it’s clear we won’t simply be returning to a pre-coronavirus eating environment. Here’s how to thrive in the new not-so-normal.
Protect Your Staff
Your first priority should be the people working for you. By coming back to work, they’re putting their own health and safety in jeopardy. You owe it to them to create as safe a workplace environment as possible. Provide them with masks and any other protective equipment necessary. Their health is also crucial to your ability to run your restaurant; if someone on your staff contracts the virus, you put members or visitors in danger and risk having to shut down. Empower your employees to lead by example and set the tone for entering customers. A staff that enforces guidelines and follows their own rules to a tee is far more likely to get respect and be taken seriously.
Revise Your Menu
Most restaurants — at golf courses or otherwise — won’t be jumping out of the gates with the exact same menu they had before. Limited staff, resources, and time will force many of us to adjust and even downsize our operations. You’ve likely already suffered financial loss due to early season closures, so you need to be smart to ensure the whole summer season doesn’t go down the tubes. If you need to make cuts, start with your most expensive and least popular menu items. Prioritize your most popular and cost-effective dishes, information you can find by perusing your point of sale data. Trim your offerings and use the lighter menu as a selling point — more on marketing your reopening later in the Marketing Strategy section.
Change Opening Hours
The same way you might trim your menu, you can experiment with cutting down on your restaurant hours too. We simply can’t predict how customers will respond to the reopening of certain businesses. Will diners shy away from group settings and heightened interaction? If they do, regular opening hours may prove to suck your profits too. You won’t know for sure until you open, so use those first few days and weeks as a testing ground. Besides, this far into the pandemic, people are used to things being a little different.
Encourage Takeout & Delivery
One of the biggest changes to come with COVID-19 as it pertains to our eating habits is the heightened importance of takeout and delivery — including from restaurants that had never dabbled in that space before. Without the ability to open a dining room or serve customers the traditional way, restaurants have had to adapt and eaters responded by quickly becoming comfortable with the new options. Now that your kitchen is reopening, you may consider exploring that avenue as well. Is it unusual for a golf course restaurant to offer takeout and delivery? Sure! But it just might come as a pleasant surprise to see your club’s name on their favourite delivery service, or to see your new offering advertised on your website. If your members have been craving your famous Fairway Burger all winter, why make them wait any longer?!
Revise Restaurant Space
Enforce Social Distancing
By now, everyone’s used to social distancing. Heck, we’ve even adopted this practice on our sacred golf courses. Still, for the safety of all your visitors and staff, the buck has to stop with you when it comes to enforcing the regulations. Start by setting up systems wherever possible to remind and encourage visitors to follow suit. Draw lines on the ground, separate and reduce tables, install partitions at cash registers, and plaster reminders on the walls. Six feet or two metres — no exceptions.
Social distancing is half the battle, but we also need to keep our spaces and surfaces sanitized. You’ve already increased your sanitary measures throughout many areas of your club — now it’s time to apply those same practices to the restaurant. High-touch surfaces and objects like door handles, counters, and touch screens that employees handle repeatedly should be wiped down with disinfectant regularly. Anything that customers touch, like credit card machines and ketchup bottles, should be cleaned after each client uses it. As a proactive measure, limit the items you provide to guests, such as cutlery and wine glasses, to only what they require.
If you do decide to begin offering takeout and delivery, you’re going to have to up your marketing game. All the sudden, you’re competing with all the other restaurants in the area, including fast food joints, local favourites, and probably even some swankier kitchens pushed into innovating their offerings just like you. As a newcomer, competition will be stiff. Since online and app-based delivery is highly visual, you’ll need to invest in high-quality food photography to showcase each of your dishes, plus some graphic design work to promote your new food foray. You might want to take to Instagram Live, Facebook Ads, or even TikTok or Snapchat. There are a lot of marketing tools at your disposal — choose wisely!
If you’ve been heeding our advice, you’re already nailing email marketing. You have a healthy list of email addresses and you’ve collected enough data to know which of your members are interested in hearing about your restaurant. With a targeted email list, you can share your latest food and beverage updates directly to the inbox of your most attentive clients. While social is great for attracting new customers, your existing members and recurring visitors will prefer the personal feel of an email send.
Your website is ground zero for your brand and the latest updates you have to share. When your restaurant is ready to open, you should put that front and centre on your homepage for everyone to see. That way, when Joe hears from Margaret who heard from Bob that your golf club is opening its 19th Hole, they can cut through the rumour mill and simply check your website to find out the truth. If you’ve revised your menu, update it online too so no one is shocked when they arrive. And if you’re opting for takeout and delivery, make that clear online and provide a smooth online ordering system that’s so pleasant to use that the customer will look forward to ordering from you again!
Relief has arrived for restaurants as regulations begin to relax. While we wish it was going to be as simple as flipping around your OPEN sign, that won’t be the case. Still, we encourage you to think outside the box and use this difficult period to adapt, innovate, and invent so you can turn a negative into a positive.